The practice of Ayurveda is, in essence, about harmonizing mind and body. And what you eat affects everything. An Ayurvedic diet is an eating plan that provides guidelines for when you eat, what you eat, and how you eat to boost your health, prevent or manage disease, and maintain wellness.
If you follow an Ayurvedic diet, you’ll eat primarily whole or minimally processed foods and practice mindful eating rituals. “Doshas” in Ayurveda refer to your unique physical and mental constitution, which influence your personal well-being. Each person has their own dominant dosha or combination of two or three and your dosha, or combinations, will determine your diet and routine. Your dosha is determined by things like your complexion, eye colour, how you handle stress, body temperature and many more. There are three types dosha:
Kaphas – tend to have larger hips and shoulders and are prone to illnesses such as bronchitis and sinus problems when they are out of balance.
Pittas – have high energy levels and good muscle tone but are short tempered when out of balance. They are also prone to ulcers, allergies and skin rashes.
Vatas – tend to be slender and often feel cold. When out of balance, they are inclined to have arthritis and dry skin.
You can take a free test to see which one you are here: https://bit.ly/37jcqLR
You can find out more about what food to try to avoid and what food is best for your dosha type here: https://www.ayurveda.com/pdf/food-guidelines.pdf
Although determining your dosha can be difficult and the diet can be a little restrictive, there are many pros to Ayurveda. Some of the main benefits associated with Ayurvedic diets include:
- Improved digestive and metabolic processes
- Improved heath of the gut/microbiome
- Weight management
- Enhanced detoxification
- Less anxiety and more inner calm
- Improved fertility and sexual/reproductive health
- Improved efficiency in the excretion process (help passing bowel movements)
- Improved functionality and range of motion due to decreased inflammation
Before lockdown I delivered a training session discussing mental health intervention and a delegate on training working as a nutritionist providing feedback suggesting that we should focus more time in the session on our mental health and how our diet directly impacts it.She told me that our digestive system produces over 90% of all serotonin (the ‘Happy’ hormone) and is often dubbed as the ‘second brain’. With this in mind, I researched the benefits of having a healthy digestive system for our mental health. I learned that out gut can affect immunity and resilience to stress and in general helps us to absorb vitamins, minerals and nutrients which is vital for our brains to thrive.
On reflection, when I have felt stressed or anxious, I often feel it in my gut, this is because when we are anxious our digestive systems speed up or slow down, depending on how we are feeling. To make sure we are keeping our brains and our bellies happy we need to make sure we are eating gut-friendly foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, pulses, and basically plenty of fibre and lots of fluid along with regular exercise.
To learn more about our digestive system and our gut check out this TED talk from nutritionist Ruairi Robertson as he discusses the link between our gut and our brain
Food and mood – This topic is highly emotive because after spending something like 15 years in the health and fitness industry, I have a little understanding of how our relationship with food often corresponds with good or bad phases of mental health or distress. Our eating habits are often indicators of whether all is well with us, and can be a form of subterfuge from distress, low mood, difficulties or anxiety. In our society we accept the notion of “eating for comfort” and equally accept the idea of “diet” without much thought around the impact both of these concepts have on us as individuals.
I am not averse to the idea of “breaking bread” with people we love, I love sharing a meal with friends and family, its more that the idea that food is either associated with over indulgence or deprivation, when in fact the kind of eating that enhances mood and well-being is much more about good nutritious food and relaxed regular eating. Thinking about what your body might need can be the key to the body feeling good.
Suicide Bereavement Support Officer
One of the most obvious yet under
recognised factors in the development
of mental health is nutrition. Just like the
heart, stomach and liver, the brain is an
organ that requires different amounts of
complex carbohydrates, essential fatty
acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals
and water to remain physically and emotionally healthy.
Nutrition can play an important
role in the prevention, development
and management of diagnosed mental
health conditions. So this week the Harmless team will be dedicating our blog content to the topic of Food and Mood.
Self harm does not discriminate.
Neither do we.
This has always been our tag line since our service began in 2007.
Now more than ever it is pertinent that we address inequality.
To echo The Samaritans
‘In the midst of a pandemic which is disproportionately impacting the Black community, the recent killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Nina Pop have propelled a collective pain so great that we must initiate change now.
Some of us have been carrying this pain for our whole lives. Others may just now be understanding the extent. Either way, the violence responsible for these tragedies is not new. Systemic racism permeates our society, creating massive institutional barriers and often fatal endings for many Black people in our country.
The field of mental and behavioral healthcare is no exception. Though many work tirelessly to fight inequity and injustice, the racial disparities in our country are real. Although we are listening and learning, we know that is not enough’.
As a suicide prevention service we pay attention to the people who need our help and in working towards enabling the system to better serve justice to our clients. Often, within an inherently prejudicial system.
This year we have focused upon raising awareness of female suicide, an area in which we feel strongly that there is inequality for women and men alike.
Given the LGBTQ+ elevation in risk we too stand with our LGBTQ+ friends in a call for justice and fairness at a time where trans equality is being politically undermined.
Let these factors which set us apart, unite us in one voice unified by #BLM and continue to educate ourselves about what we as individuals and as services can do better.
Self harm does not discriminate- neither do we.
Stand with us as we endeavour to work for a mental health system that has parity of esteem and help us to continue to stand against inequality and continue to save lives.
We will be taking a closer look at inequality and discrimination in a series of articles and discussions bringing issues pertinent to our clients, to the fore.
To understand various interesting theories around why we dream, take a few minutes to watch this TedEd animation created by Amy Adkins.
I studied the life and work of Marc Chagall at Art college. One of his paintings is titled ‘Dream’ and most of his work is influenced by his internal experience. Chagall had a difficult early life and it is believed that his paintings represented hope and a means of escape from the harsh realities of our world. Our dreams are important as they represent our emotional and intellectual internal state of being.
Dreams help us to:
- Make sense our current experience
- Identify triggers to emotional distress
- Process the emotion attached to distressing or difficult experiences
- Reinforce skills learned during the day
- Allow our minds to access creativity that may not have been accessible during the day.
It is no wonder that many of us have experienced a heightened awareness of our dream life during the Covid 19 Pandemic. Have you noticed that we all feel the need to tell somebody about our dreams? My daughters have been telling me about dreams about interacting with friends who they’re not currently seeing, dreams based on past and future events, dreams that seem purely fantastical and some slightly distressing dreams. Communicating our dream life to someone helps to reflect and make sense of it, and in that moment we re-live the experience of dreaming.
Dreaming is one of the few things that connect us to all other human beings, our ancestors and future humans too! Writers have dreamt of plots and characters, inventors and artists have dreamt about their future creations and philosophers and activists have dreamt about a better future.
Dreaming is our parallel world. If we feel safe enough to, we can make time to explore that world and the ways it can help us to move forwards.
When I was younger and first encountered dreams in an academic, psychological way, it was primarily focused on the psychodynamic Freudian theories. Frankly, my perception of it was one of scepticism. My scepticism of it came from the idea that the meaning of our dreams is subconscious and symbolic which meant it relies on someone else interpreting them. It felt wrong to rob someone’s own meaning of their dream from them. This is why when people I work with mention dreams I always use it as an opportunity to explore their dream and find their own interpretation of it.
As you can probably tell, I am not a big fan of dream interpretation coming from a position whereby I as a listener infer what the client’s dream means and represents. We are in a better position to understand our own dreams as we have our own lived experience, belief system and relationships with the things and people we dream about. Dreams can be very powerful and vivid and how a client interprets them gives me and hopefully the client as well insight into themselves.
Usually, dreams relate to what is experienced in reality, so giving people a safe space to question, think through and express how the dream makes them feel, what it means and how it impacts on them can give them validation and understanding.
When people I have worked with in a bereavement setting talk about dreams, it often relates to the person they have lost or the circumstances of how they have died. Sometimes the dreams are upsetting and disturbing, but often they are not. These dreams can instil comfort, pleasure, happiness but inevitability cause sadness and longing as well. Grief is as unique as a fingerprint, and so are dreams. They are different from person to person, dream to dream. Some people believe these dreams are messages or communications from their loved ones whilst others believe their dreams are purely memories. I feel whatever the biological reason for dreaming is, of which there are many theories, the purpose, relationship with and value of dreams lays with us, and only us.
Suicide Bereavement Support Officer